Upshur county fires related, say authorities; searching for persons of interest

Six fires in one night and Upshur County authorities say they're all related. Today they are interviewing persons of interests.

The places set ablaze: Brown's Chapel Church outside Gilmer, a tractor trailer fire in the bettie area, blazing hay bales in Enon, a home on Aster Road, an old barn near Harmony, and the Latch Community Center. Today, KLTV 7's Danielle Capper has the latest on what some east Texans are calling a malicious act of violence.

"This was a landmark. This church had been here for all these years."

Forrest Curry grew up in Brown's Chapel Church. His father's name is etched on the cornerstone.

"Great educators, teachers, the head coach of the Chicago bears - Lovie Smith came out of this church here," said Curry.

Lovie's family still attends this church, a church that now meets in its new building right down the road.

"This was the place we could come to heal our wounds and get recharged spiritually and go back out and fight another day."

But the 76 year old building was being used as a recreation center, and the thought that the fire could have been intentionally set is unimaginable.

"To just maliciously destroy something that it took some people a lifetime to build up."

Fire Marshal Paul Steelman says the 6 fires across the county are related, with each of them unoccupied structures in rural areas.

"Even though there is quite some distance between some of the fires, at least 2 of these fires burned for an extended period of time before anybody ever reported them."

The scenes have yet to be processed because authorities are trying to get information from persons of interest.

"On the night of the fire there was a vehicle that was stopped. Individuals were in the vicinity of one of the fires," said Steelman.

The three adults inside the car are being interviewed. No charges have been filed yet and authorities haven't ruled out the possiblity of a hate crime.

Authorities say the persons of interest they are talking to may also have a connection to other fires, unrelated to the 6 fires on Wednesday night.

Danielle Capper, reporting.